New Zealand doctors slam medicinal cannabis regulations

Doctors have slammed the process of prescribing medicinal cannabis to patients, saying it's a "forever changing" and "complicated" system.

A new study in the New Zealand Medical Journal found GPs are struggling with the current system.

Seventy-six North Island GPs took part in the recent survey. Forty-two of them said that over the course of one year, at least one patient asked for a medicinal cannabis prescription.

Fourteen of those GPs say they attempted to prescribe a product, but 13 had difficulties. And ultimately, seven patients received a prescription.

Medicinal cannabis is currently only available from a GP with specialist approval and sign off from the Ministry of Health. One doctor said that process, and the cost to patients, are major barriers.

"Of the small group of GPs who attempted to prescribe medical cannabis products, nearly all of them had had some sort of impediment to the process," Dr Karen Oldfield said.

"It's quite a complicated process and it's forever changing at the moment, so it's hard to keep up. So I think it needs to be really clear to be able to communicate that to GPs."

The current requirements will be removed in April when medicinal cannabis regulations are changed. Another doctor - who has been prescribing CBD to his patients for several years - is looking forward to the change.

"If they [patients] want something with THC at the moment, it requires sign off from the patient, the GP, a specialist and the Ministry of Health. I'm glad that's going to change," Dr Graham Gulbransen said.

The Government says the Ministry of Health intends to work with health professionals ahead of the changes to help them understand how they will work.